Some days are more memorable than others. One that Quincy Enunwa will never forget is May 10, 2014. Not only did he graduate from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor's degree in economics, he was also selected by the Jets in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
"It was a sense of the excitement," Enunwa said. "I would say also the biggest thing for me was that my sister, Chete, was there. She was going to school at NYU. So there was that feeling of like, 'Okay, I will be near family.' But definitely, it was a time when all my dreams came true. Everything that I worked hard for, it happened on that day."
The third of three wide receivers chosen by New York that year, Enunwa quickly impressed veterans Snacks Harrison, Jeremy Curley, and Eric Decker. As well as the coaches, who decided to keep him around by placing him on the practice squad. Did that give the rookie an opportunity to learn about life in the NFL with less pressure?
"I would say that it gave me a lot of perspective," Enunwa said. "To be in that position, working every day, I wouldn't say less pressure because every day I was really being judged on how I practice. Whereas a lot of guys were given the opportunity to play in games, if I wasn't practicing at a high level and really giving a good example for the defense, for the offense, or special teams, whatever it may be, it really kind of enhanced the experience. Every day was important for me."
Activated for the 2014 season finale against Miami, Enunwa returned the following year with one game of experience and a new head coach, with Rex Ryan being replaced by Todd Bowles.
"As I learned more about Coach Bowles," Enunwa said, "I was excited to work with him and really gain a lot of knowledge. Obviously, his former playing experience in the NFL, and now being a head coach, I was excited to see what he would bring to the table."
Enunwa grabbed a bigger seat at the table in 2016, finishing tied for second on the team with 58 receptions for 857 yards and four touchdowns, including a 69-yarder from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Jets' 24-16 win over Baltimore. What clicked for him that season?
"I would say just a combination of all the experience that I had, the practice squad, playing the game in 2015," Enunwa said. "The combination of that, as well as, just having some vets around me in Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, to kind of take a lot of the weight off. It allowed me to just be free and go play.
"Also having a veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. He kind of helped me just not have to think too much. It allowed me to just go out and show my skills."
Unfortunately, he wasn't able to do that the following year when during training camp, he was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.
"I was told that I had spinal stenosis. It was a condition where my spinal cord was a little bit narrower than others. So that kind of led me to be more susceptible to neck injuries," Enunwa said. "I know I'd taken a few hits on special teams that started to kind of linger, but then in 2017, that's when I guess I would say that the results of all those hits and everything ended up in me having a herniated disc.
"It was challenging. I'd say that I had a belief that I belonged there and that this was just a minor inconvenience. Although it was a severe injury, I think that my mentality was that I could come back from it. I took a lot of information from other guys that also had that surgery and were able to play. So that was really helpful and really encouraging to know that it's possible. And the doctors let me believe that it was possible.
"So for me, it was like, alright, this is an injury just as any other injury. It was just important to keep my head down and grind and do the work that I needed to do so that once that process is over, I can get back on the field and do what I like to do."
After 11 games in 2018, when he had 38 catches for 449 yards and a touchdown, Enunwa landed on I.R. again because of his neck. And then after going through rehab, he reinjured it in the first quarter of the 2019 season opener against Buffalo, and was lost for the year. He would also spend the 2020 season on the PUP list.
Officially with the Jets for seven seasons, 2014-20, Enunwa and his wife, Deanna, make their home in North Jersey with their 1-year-old son, Amari. And in addition to spending time with his family, he gives back to the local communities by helping coach high school football.
"Last year, I worked with Hanover Park. This year I'm working with Irvington," Enunwa said. "It's just cool to give back. It's an opportunity for me to stay in the game, really kind of sharpening my knowledge, but also giving them some knowledge, giving them some of my experiences.
"I'm constantly reminding myself that it's their work, they're the ones that are doing it. All I'm doing is trying to guide them to the goal. So, for me, it's having a balance of feeling that reward of seeing these guys grow, but also understanding that it was always in them. They just needed a little bit of help to bring it out."
And eight years after being a rookie wide receiver, Enunwa will be a rookie again this fall as a TV football analyst. Again, for the Jets.
"It's working with Eric Allen and the Jets pre- and post-game shows," Enunwa said. "It's something new for me. I obviously did media with the Jets and enjoyed doing different things that I had to do, but this is a whole different experience. I'm looking forward to growing in it. The goal for me is to just continue to grow, continue to learn. The reward of challenging myself and trying something new will be great for me."